The upside of being married in retirement is having a partner to share experiences and expenses with. The downside, though, is having more expenses.
It costs more money to pay for food, healthcare, and other essentials for two people than one. But thankfully, senior couples typically receive more Social Security income than singles.
In 2022, the average individual monthly Social Security benefit will be $1,657. That number accounts for the 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment recipients are getting in the new year.
Meanwhile, the average senior couple on Social Security will be in line for $2,753 a month in benefits next year. And you may notice that that number is not twice as high as the average individual benefit.
Why so? It's often the case that within a given couple, there's a higher earner and a lower earner. And that alone could explain why the average benefit for couples isn't twice the average benefit for singles.
Also, many married seniors take advantage of spousal benefits in situations where one spouse never worked and therefore isn't entitled to benefits based on his or her own work record. Those who are married and claiming spousal benefits can receive up to 50% of their spouse's monthly Social Security paycheck, which also explains that lower benefit for couples.
How married couples can get more out of Social Security
You may be surprised to see that the average couple will only collect $2,753 a month in benefits next year. If that number sounds shockingly low to you, the good news is that there are things you can do to raise it.
If you're gearing up to retire, one option is to have you, your spouse, or both of you put in a little more time in the workforce if your earnings are much higher now than they were earlier on in your career. Social Security takes your 35 highest-paid years of income into account when calculating the benefit you're entitled to. And so if you're able to work longer, you could replace some lower-paying years in that formula with higher earnings.
You and your spouse can also coordinate your Social Security filing to grow your collective benefit. For each year you hold off on signing up for Social Security past full retirement age, your benefits grow 8%.
Now, let's assume both you and your spouse are entitled to a monthly benefit based on your own respective work records, and that you both have a full retirement age of 67. If one of you delays benefits until age 70 while the other files at 67, you'll have some money coming in sooner while the other benefit gets a generous boost.
Should you care about the average monthly benefit?
It may be helpful to know what the average senior couple on Social Security is in line for in 2022. That said, just because the average couple is looking at $2,753 a month doesn't mean that's what your benefit will look if you're married. A combination of factors, like higher lifetime wages and a delayed filing, could leave you with a lot more retirement income to look forward to, so don't be too thrown if that $2,753 a month is a lower number than you'd like it to be.
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